I just finished watching the R-rated “Mortal Kombat” we’ve all been waiting for. And you know what? It was better than I thought it was going to be. That said, it absolutely should have been BETTER. With so much time to craft this project and all the talent behind it, there is no excuse for this film not to be a flawless victory. Someone at HBO Max should have made the pitch for this to be a 6-8 part mini series rather than a feature film. Would I watch that? Hell yes I would.
Starring Lewis Tan (“Deadpool 2,” Netflix’s “Wu Assassins”) as Cole Young, Jessica McNamee (“The Meg”) as Sonya Blade, Josh Lawson (“Bombshell”) as Kano, Tadanobu Asano (“Midway”) as Lord Raiden, Mehcad Brooks (TV’s “Supergirl”) as Jackson “Jax” Bridges, Ludi Lin (“Aquaman”) as Liu Kang, with Chin Han (“Skyscraper”) as Shang Tsung, Joe Taslim (“Star Trek Beyond”) as Bi-Han and Sub-Zero, Hiroyuki Sanada (“Skyscraper”) as Hanzo Hasashi and Scorpion, Max Huang as Kung Lao, Sisi Stringer as Mileena, Matilda Kimber as Emily Young, and Laura Brent as Allison.
I’ll start at the beginning for this flick, which just happens to be one of the best parts. Without going into too much detail, we see a small piece of the Sub-Zero / Scorpion history. That story all on it’s own as presented here by director Simon McQuoid would make for a perfect beginning to a mini series. Perhaps two of the most well-known characters from the video game franchise engaging in a generations-long blood feud? Paired with some well crafted fight scenes? Yes please.
But that’s sort of where the comprehensive storytelling ends. We’re introduced to characters right and left, but without really giving a crap about who they are? There is something to be said for backstory and filler scenes, which there aren’t really any of here. We’re expected to know the lore, the rules and the stakes of this bloody contest without being told them.
So, imagine one episode per member of Earth Realm’s team of fighters, to explain who they are, their backstories, and their motivations. THAT is exactly what this film should have been. Longer, more comprehensive, more room to add in additional fights and characters.
Remember the option to toggle on and off the amount of blood and fatalities in previous releases of “Mortal Kombat” games? This film absolutely gives you those parental-warning finishing moves with true style and satisfaction.
The production value is excellent, other than a moment towards the end where the athletic mat is plainly visible. The special effects are also pretty great, although I myself could have used some additional practical. And of course the music- yes, the iconic tune we all recognize makes itself known several times.
If you’re looking for that hit of nostalgia from the games, you’ll absolutely get that from this film. Don’t expect it to completely reinvent the genre though, as it does not.
“Mortal Kombat” will hit HBO Max and select theaters on Friday, April 23rd 2021.